If you’re worried about somebody you know who is experiencing trouble with their memory, you should encourage them to see their GP. However, it can be very difficult to start a conversation about the issue as it is uncertain how the person will react. Due to the sensitive nature of the matter, it is important to approach the situation carefully. In order to do so, a range of different aspects should be considered before talking about the topic:

What could be stopping them from seeing their GP?

It is a useful exercise to put yourself in the person’s shoes and consider the situation from their perspective. Is it possible that they may not want to consult their GP due to fearing the diagnosis? Do they perhaps not trust the judgement of their doctor? Are they worried about the cost of the treatment? It is important to consider these different angles, as it will make it easier to communicate with the person in question if you have a better understanding of their state of mind.

What is their current mental state?

Before talking to the person about the issue, it may be beneficial to analyse the mental state and moods that they are currently experiencing. For example, if they’ve seemed more agitated and frustrated lately, the best approach to take may be a gentle one in order to not seem challenging and end up escalating the situation. In addition to this, it may also be worthwhile to ask them to elaborate on how they have been feeling lately and why they think these feelings are occurring. A conversation like this can help to make the person feel more comfortable and make it easier to talk about delicate subjects.

How do they like to communicate or receive news?

Being familiar with the way the person prefers to communicate with others can also be beneficial when approaching the conversation. It is important to make the person feel as comfortable as possible when discussing the matter, and facilitating their communication preferences is one way of making sure that this is the case. For example, if the person prefers talking in person rather than on the phone, the discussion should be conducted in this way. Try to pinpoint the person’s needs and base the conversation around them.

Where is the best place and time to talk?

Similarly to the previous point, choosing a place and time to talk where the person feels comfortable can also be useful. By choosing a place that is familiar and non-threatening to the person you can make them feel at home and allow them to open up more. It is also helpful to pick a time when the conversation won’t be rushed and each party can explain themselves fully. In addition to this, it may also be beneficial to pick a time when the GP surgery is open, so that if they feel ready to book a GP appointment they will be able to do so. Also, for good measure, letting the person choose the time and place could help with their levels of comfort.

Is there anybody else who could help with the conversation?

It is worthwhile to question whether there is anybody else who may be able to provide a useful insight when starting the conversation. This can add an extra perspective and may provide the person in need with extra information regarding a GP visit. As before, it is important to consider whether this addition would make the person more or less comfortable. For example, if they are not confident in talking to a number of people regarding sensitive matters, it would be more beneficial to have the conversation one-to-one. If they are comfortable with this, however, adding people to the conversation can provide a more solid social base and give them the confidence to open up further.

Have they noticed the symptoms?

Before starting the conversation, it is important to consider whether the person is aware of the changes occurring. Although the signs and symptoms may be apparent to you, the person in question often feels as though everything is normal. Due to this, it is helpful to take a slow approach. It may be useful to gently ask if they are feeling any different to usual or if they have noticed any recent changes. Make sure that they know you are raising these concerns as you care for them, as if this is not established, they may become defensive and withdrawn.

For further information, please visit: alzheimers.org.uk.